There are hunters, and then there is Jeff. In a comparison, I consider my self to be in that one percent that catches ninety-nine percent of the fish; Jeff is that one percent that puts whatever he hunts in the truck.
Jeff Chesser owns Harbor Diesel in Destin Florida, and is the best boat mechanic in the area; he also hunts, a lot! I met Jeff a few years ago when I moved to Destin, he was referred to me by other fishermen to help with my “beyond me moments” on my engines.
In August Jeff was wearing camouflage; I knew right then I had just met my future hunting partner. I was brand new to Florida, knew nothing about hunting in the south; I did however know how to make friends with the natives. While Jeff was trying to find the best way out of my little boat issue (Maggie that morning had topped off #2 fuel tank with the water hose). We got to talking about hunting and he invited me to go pig hunting that next evening, hunting in 90 degree August Florida heat? You betcha!!
We went to his ‘pig' lease on the Florida/Alabama boarder and Jeff put me in a tree stand with a plastic blue 55 gallon drum turned pig feeder about a hundred yards away. My first Southern hunting experience was pretty cool, I shot at the first wild pig that I saw- it was running, I missed of course, but it was fun. We met back at the truck at dark; Jeff had killed three, (he waited until the herd came in and started eating, and oh yeah standing still.)
The next morning I learned how to take care of iced down pigs, it is really quite the process.
First you drive to an out of town car wash and you power wash the dead pigs for around 20 minutes per pig.
Next, back at Jeff's house we hoist the pigs up on Jeff's custom pig cleaning station to remove the hide. Using a combination of knifes, and power tools we cleaned the pigs. The de-boned pig meat then goes into a huge cooler with about 150 pounds of ice; a dozen fresh lemons are sliced and added along with a small bottle of vinegar. The water hose is used to fill the cooler to the brim, making an ice brine, soaking the meat for three days removes much of the gaminess from the meat. Jeff advised me to freeze the hundred pounds or so of pig meat he gave me for around 30 days to make sure it was safe to eat, (a little fact that I decided to keep from Maggie).
Over the next few years I learned an awful lot about hunting in general. I also learned that the pigs and Jeff really had a lot going on between them. Jeff being an engineer just thinks differently than most of us, these guys have to know how everything works and goes together. While someone like me is perfectly happy knowing that pigs like corn, Jeff wants to know how the pigs like it the best and how to make it fun for the pigs. He read some where that wild pigs like to dig so one day we walked out into a swamp with a posthole digger, 100 pounds of corn, and six piston liners from a 671. We dug four-foot holes in the ground with the posthole digger, dropped three of the liners into each hole and poured the corn in. We then had to make the half-mile walk back to the truck to get the two, gallon size caterpillar oil jugs, filled with molasses of course to pour over the whole mess. I think this is when I asked him about the piston liners from the second trip, (baiting hogs with Jeff is always a two man, three trip back and forth to the truck process). “Well I told you the pigs like to dig.” And I'm like ‘Um… ok??' I finally got the theory out of him. The pigs would rather dig up their dinner than eat it out of a bowl; digging is what makes the critters happy.
So Jeff being an engineer wanted to make a pig feeding, fully functioning and practical pig device. The 671 liners would hopefully occupy the three big boars he was getting photos of on his flat screen home monitor, via uploaded GPS linked satellite transmitting trail cameras. It seemed to me he had them all over the state of Florida! A couple of days later I went back to re-bait this spot and the whole place was torn up, all the piston liners were on top of the ground and those 8 inch round holes we dug were now pits. Back at the truck I decided to have a little fun with Jeff.
I told him the pigs were at the feeder and one of those big boars had a 671 liner jammed on its snout thrashing about in the swamp. ‘You better let me handle this one' he says as he grabs the pig spear out of the back of the truck, along with a 357 handgun from behind the seat. Jeff got about ten feet into the woods and stopped, taking out his I Phone he started checking that one game camera, he watched the scene for a couple minutes before retuning to the truck when he told me never to lie about the pigs again. Jeff killed two of those three big boars at that spot, the third one was proving to be a problem and it became personal between the pig and Jeff.
This big 300-pound blond pig didn't like Jeff, (I think the cross bow bolt probably had something to do with it.) Jeff had a good chance at this boar six months before bow hunting but his arrow never made it past that shoulder hide plate, and ever since that day that pig hated Jeff. That smart pig ate all of Jeff's corn every chance it had to even out the score a bit.
Pigs, they say can be smarter than dogs. They can hear way better than just about anything in the woods. Their sense of smell is better than a deer, and if they could see better I don't believe hunters would harvest too many, this boar though I think could see Jeff though a wall. Jeff hunted this one pig hard, and often, he would see the pig, hear the pig, smell the bloody thing but could not get a good shot at it, that pig just seemed to know when Jeff was in the tree.
This went on for almost a year, until I got this phone call in March; I was on my way out of the pass to go cobia fishing. ‘Corky I killed a pig.” Jeff said I'm thinking, yeah so what, he kills pigs every week, but I think I told him ‘that was nice' or something. ‘Can you come give me a hand?' he asked. I told him we were fishing a tournament and couldn't. I later found out that I really wish I could have, because I missed an epic battle.
You see Jeff shot that big boar in the head and that really pissed that pig off!
Jeff thought it would be a good idea to take someone else along into the swamp where the enraged beast ran.
Somewhere Jeff read about this guy shooting hogs in the head with a .17 caliber so Jeff wanted to try it, not knowing that was the day that that big old SOB would walk right into the feeder. The pig must have known Jeff would never try shooting him with a varmint rifle with a load meant for squirrels, stupid hog. Well Jeff went after the hog alone, armed with a 357 snub nose pistol and his back up pig spear, (a bayonet lashed to a five foot long pole.)
The pig found Jeff, Jeff shot the pig a few more times with the 357, and the pig got even madder. Out of bullets, Jeff and the pig battled it out hand to hand, both of them got kinda bloody, but in the end Jeff won the war. That boar was the most massive, scarred up, broken toothed ugly fellow that I have ever seen. I regretted the lost chance to have witnessed the fight from a tree (I would have been in a tree as soon as I heard that thing).
I have known Jeff a long time now; he is my good friend, diesel mechanic, and teacher. I guess the next story I'll have to tell you will be about his hunting camp on the river, but we will leave the story about that charter boat for another time.
CAPT. CORKY DECKER
Capt. Mark S. “Corky” Decker is an IGFA-certified captain, freelance writer and a proven world-class billfish guide. He grew up commercial fishing on the East Coast, prior to quitting college and relocating to Alaska to cash in on the booming fisheries of the 1980s. After almost 20 years of incredible success, it all suddenly came crashing down with a looming federal lawsuit for illegal fishing practices that changed a whole way of life — not just for him but for commercial fishermen in general.
At age 40 Corky ran away to the South Pacific to start over, fishing for marlin and writing about the sport. Today, Corky's home port is Destin, Florida, where he lives with his New Zealand-born wife, Maggie. Corky recently completed his first novel To See A Green Flash and is currently working on a sequel to his personal memoir A Hardway to Make an Easy Living. In the Spring of 2012 Corky came full circle yet again and purchased a Maine harpoon boat to pursue the fish of his youth — giant bluefin tuna. He fishes out of Perkins Cove in Ogunquit, Maine, during the summer — where his passion for fishing began. To find out more about Corky and order one of his books, visit corkydecker.com.